Posted on: 15 March 2017
Dental implants represent a more stable, comfortable, and permanent solution to the traditional denture, and studies estimate a success rate of up to 95% over a 10-year period, with pre-existing health conditions and bone quality proving the most important factors.
That said, there are certain decisions that you should make before an implant is fitted, and one of the most important is what type of material is used. Most implants are still made using titanium, but zirconia, a ceramic material, is starting to become steadily more popular. In many cases, the ultimate decision will be down to your dentist, but there are still some things you will want to consider if you are asked to choose.
The Benefits of Titanium Implants
There's no denying that titanium implants are immensely popular, and that popularity is not without reason. The most important benefit of titanium is that it boasts a very high strength-to-weight ratio, meaning that it is very tough and yet also relatively lightweight. It is for just this reason that titanium is often used for purposes as diverse as space travel and hip replacements; in either case, dependable strength must combine with lightness.
Zirconia implants are not as strong, and can develop micro-fractures during the fitting process or when the implants need to be tightened. Breaks are still unlikely to occur, but this is still something worth keeping in mind.
Beyond mere strength, titanium is an exceptionally versatile material. This is because most titanium implants will be two-piece implants. There will be one piece inserted into the jawbone to form an anchor, then the next piece will be fitted onto the top to create a false tooth. Two-piece systems are generally preferred since they are significantly more flexible than one-piece systems. False teeth will be easier to change if damage or stains occur, implants will be easier to fit at an angle, and you'll even be able to use a two-piece implant to anchor a number of teeth using overdentures.
As an additional benefit, two-piece systems will be a little faster to fit. As with any type of implant, the bone needs to fuse to the anchor implant in order for the implant to be successful – this vital process is known as osteointegration. With a two-piece system, the lower part can be fitted independently of the upper part, meaning that the gum can more easily fuse around it to ensure a faster healing time.
The Benefits of Zirconia Implants
For the reasons discussed above, titanium implants are generally the preferred option for most people, but that doesn't mean that zirconia implants aren't ideal for certain patients.
If you suffer from oral sensitivity, for example, you might find zirconia implants a better choice. Unlike titanium, zirconia does not conduct heat or cold. When you eat ice cream or drink a warm cup of coffee, the implant won't radiate that heat downwards to the jawbone or laterally to the surrounding teeth, making for a more comfortable experience.
Zirconia implants are also a good choice for people with quite thin gums. One of the central problems with titanium implants is that the lower section will be dull grey. This usually won't show through, but people with thin gums can develop a greyish tinge around the gum line. Zirconia is pure white, so this isn't going to be an issue.
Furthermore, zirconia can be perfect for patients who have poor immune systems or those who are susceptible to gum disease. Because zirconia implants are usually one-piece systems, there is no prosthetic connection point that can be penetrated by bacteria. Zirconia also removes the likelihood of developing an allergy because it is completely non-allergenic. Studies have demonstrated a relatively low prevalence rate of 0.6% for titanium allergies within the general population. That might be a small number, but it still means that around 1 in every 200 people will develop problems, and researchers found that symptoms included skin rashes, implant failure, and non-specific immune suppression.Share